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“The Revised GOP Ransom Note”: House Republicans Now Willing To Fund Government In Exchange For One Year Obamacare Delay

House Republicans are preparing to introduce a new, last minute Continuing Resolution that would fund the operations of government for a few more months in exchange for an agreement by Senate Democrats and the White House to delay the execution of Obamacare for one year.

This newest bid is being presented as a “compromise” as the initial proposal put forward by the House—one that was rejected by the Senate—hinged the funding of government on the full defunding of the Affordable Care Act.

Compromise?

I suppose it is if you consider that someone holding a gun to your head and demanding ten million dollars to spare your life becomes a “compromiser” when he suddenly drops the price to seven million after you’ve told your assailer that you can’t or won’t pay.

Or maybe you would consider a foreign power threating our country with thermonuclear destruction unless we surrender to them as being willing to compromise if they modify their demand so as to leave us with everything east of the Mississippi if we are prepared to give up all the territory to the west?

For those who would fool themselves into believing that the latest House offer is some effort to find “middle ground”, ask yourself this question—

Why do these people wish to delay enforcement of the Affordable Care Act for one year?

Does anyone imagine that those who have been seeking to deny funding to government absent the delay or destruction of a law that was passed by Congress, signed into being by the President, and approved by the Supreme Court actually want to hold off the implementation of that law so they can improve it?

At no time—since the blitzkrieg of misinformation and outright lies that have been peddled by Obamacare opponents following the Act’s creation–have the House Republicans so much as once suggested that they would like to improve the law. Having voted more than 40 times to repeal or defund the law, have they ever, since passage, voted on proposed amendments to the law that they claim would improve the healthcare reform act?

Never.

Indeed, they are not even pretending to want to make it better via a delay as not so much as one Republican elected official who has paraded in front of the TV cameras today to pitch defunding or delay has so much as hinted than an extra year would give Congress time to make some ‘fixes’ or ‘changes.’

So, again, why the one year extension?

The better to keep the issue ‘hot’ for Republicans going into the 2014 midterm elections.

After all, nothing is going to change in the next year that would improve the Republicans’ chances of doing away with the law.

Should the GOP hold the House in the 2014 elections and pick up enough seats in the Senate to gain a majority, absolutely nobody believes for a moment that the GOP could gain enough Senate seats so as to grant them the capability of overturning a presidential veto.

And, like it or not, the Democrats will hold the White House through 2016.

And yet, every Republican mug I see on the television screen today tells me that they are doing this for me.

Really?

My premium rates are scheduled to go down rather dramatically upon the opening of the healthcare exchange in my state. So, what exactly are these House Republicans doing for me—and the millions of other Americans who cannot get coverage due to preexisting conditions (like acne) or face using up their lifetime maximums when a serious illness strikes? What exactly are Ted Cruz and his friends doing for those who are denied their paid for coverage after they get sick by insurance companies who don’t want to pay off and can find a spelling error on the insured’s application? What about the millions of Americans who simply have been unable to afford health insurance coverage without the benefit of the government subsidies or those who are married forever to their job—whether they like it or not— because, to leave it, would mean putting their family in jeopardy should someone get sick?

Still, if the GOP continues to feel the need to use healthcare policy to hold up funding of the government, and they are truly doing this for my benefit, I have an additional policy change I’d like Speaker Boehner to add to the new House legislation—things that would truly be for my benefit and the benefit of my family—

I would like the Speaker to make the Continuing Resolution to keep the government’s doors open contingent upon gun control legislation that requires registration of all weapons at the time of purchase. That would be doing something that could truly help me and my family.

And before anyone tries to tell me that this would be unacceptable because—unlike Obamacare where the majority of the country currently opposes the law, the majority of Americans love their guns—I suggest you review the polls revealing that more Americans favor changes in gun registration laws than the number of Americans who oppose the Affordable Care Act.

I could go on with more ransom demands for the Speaker but I’ll settle for just this one. After all, Boehner only plans to fund the government through this December in exchange for destroying the Affordable Care Act so I don’t want to be too greedy as to what I would expect for a three month extension of an operating government.

If the House Republicans are unwilling to link the funding of government to the things that will really be of value to me, then I can only hope that the Senate Democrats and the President hold the line and allow the GOP to get what is coming to them for their behavior.

While I hate to see so many of my fellow Americans suffer the problems and serious inconveniences that are inevitable in a government shut down, I—like so many Americans that the right-wing prefers to pretend do not exist—have had enough of these eighty to one hundred extremists in Congress standing in the way of trying to make life better for so many Americans just so they can be re-elected . These are, after all, elected officials that come from congressional districts where constituents continue to be incapable of grasping that the debt ceiling debate is about paying for debts we’ve already incurred and not some limitation on what government can borrow or spend in the following year.

I also highlight that these people on the right prefer to pretend I do exist because of their continued suggestion that “Americans” do not want the healthcare reform law. Not so much as one supporter of defunding or delaying Obamacare, who has spoken to the cameras today, has said “some Americans” or “most Americans”. They simply say that this law is a train wreck and Americans don’t want it.

Like it or not, I am an American and I do want this alleged train wreck as do enough of my fellow Americans to constitute at least forty percent of the electorate. So, I would very much appreciate it if Rep. Jeb Henserling and the remaining band of the GOP talking heads haunting the airwaves would stop lumping me in with their political distortions.

The President is flat-out right on this one. If the Republicans want to argue over what should—or should not—be included in the next fiscal year’s budget, I’m all for it. Each branch of Congress can pass their version of a budget and the two  can get into the conference committee room and beat each other up until they come to a budget  agreement they can send over to the White House for signature.

But if these 100 or so Members of Congress want to screw up people’s lives because they have a fundamental problem with our system of government, we should give them no quarter.

And make no mistake, it is precisely these people’s resentment of how our government was created to operate that drives them to these extremist positions—no matter how much they pretend to be ‘strict constitutionalists’.

Just because GOP legislators like to carry a copy of the Constitution in their suit pocket doesn’t mean they’ve ever read it or could care less what it actually says. It just means they have pockets large enough to hold fat oil company checks and a tiny copy of our founding document at the same time.

 

By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, September 29, 2013

September 30, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Height Of Absurdity”: What Republican Political Regression Looks Like

In July, when several far-right lawmakers started pushing a government-shutdown scheme in earnest, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who isn’t exactly a moderate, had the good sense to reject the idea as silly.

“I think it’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of,” Burr said at the time. “Listen, as long as Barack Obama is president, the Affordable Care Act is going to be law.”

I mention this, of course, because the North Carolina Republicans’ reasoned, sensible approach to extortion politics has apparently disappeared over the last two months.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who dubbed Cruz’s threat to shut down the government over Obamacare the “dumbest idea” he’d ever heard, said Congress shouldn’t give Obama a debt ceiling increase without attaching strings, and the president “is going to pay some price for it, which is a benefit for the American people.”

“I hope [an Obamacare] delay is either part of the next [continuing resolution] or I hope it’s part of the debt ceiling,” Burr said.

There are a couple of important angles to this. First, if anyone was inclined to give Burr points for being an adult in July, now is the time to kick yourself. What he’s describing is a dangerous extortion scheme in which radicalized lawmakers threaten to hurt the country on purpose unless Americans start losing health care benefits.

The fact that Burr didn’t want to threaten a government shutdown was nice, but the fact that he does want to threaten the full faith and credit of the United States is madness — the severity of a sovereign debt crisis is vastly more serious than a shutdown.

Second, Politico mentioned in passing that the issue here is Congress “giving Obama a debt ceiling increase.” It’s time for the political world to stop thinking this way — raising the statutory debt limit isn’t “giving” the president anything.

Indeed, the political establishment’s understanding of this issue has become more than a little twisted. To see Republicans voting for a debt ceiling increase as some kind of concession is the height of absurdity. For those who rationalize threatening deliberate harm to the nation, and for much of the media, the idea is that we’re witnessing some sort of trade — Democrats get a debt-ceiling increase, Republicans get a laundry list of goodies they can’t pass through the legislative process.

The problem with this is that it’s not sane.

The legislative branch has the power of the purse, and appropriates government spending. When that spending is outpaced by federal receipts, it’s up to the executive branch to borrow the difference. Under a ridiculous quirk in the U.S. system, the executive is only allowed to borrow the difference after Congress, which spent more than it took in, gives its authority to do so.

This is called the debt ceiling. The Obama administration needs to borrow the funds to pay the bills for the stuff Congress already bought. There’s no real reason for the system to work this way — most modern democracies have no use for a statutory debt limit — but for now, this is the messy process we’ve created for ourselves.

The point, of course, is that when Congress raises the debt ceiling, as it must, it’s not doing the White House a favor. It’s not some kind of concession or gesture of goodwill. It’s not increasing the debt or giving Obama a blank check or spending any money. It’s just extending a legal authority to pay the bills lawmakers already racked up. Period. Full stop.

So when it comes to “negotiations,” for Congress to ask the White House, “What do we get for raising the debt limit” is insane because on a substantive level, the question is gibberish.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, September 26, 2013

September 29, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, Government Shut Down, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“As Usual, The Public Be Damned”: House Republicans Should Come To Their Senses And Just Knock It Off

The health care obsessives in the Senate, led by Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, have spent days trying to portray Democrats as out of touch with the public. “The Senate Democrats are not listening to the millions of Americans who are being hurt by Obamacare,” Mr. Cruz said this morning in his last stand in this particular round of the budget battle.

Moments later, however, the vote took place and Mr. Cruz lost badly. It was clear that all Democrats and a majority of Senate Republicans had in fact listened quite closely to the public — which demanded that Congress not shut down the government, whatever the fate of President Obama’s health law.

On the crucial vote to cut off debate over a temporary spending bill to keep the government open, 79 senators, including 25 Republicans, opposed Mr. Cruz’s plea for a filibuster. (All of those Republicans also opposed the final bill, which removed the provision defunding the health law and sent the stopgap bill back to the House, but by then Democrats only needed a simple majority for passage.)

The Republican split in the Senate — 25 against shutdown tactics, 19 in favor — was a pretty clear signal to the House about the political limits of opposition to the health law. Mainstream Republicans will continue to oppose the law, exaggerating every minor glitch and failure, and running against it in next year’s election, but most are not willing to shut down the government to stop it.

They know what will happen if a shutdown occurs at midnight on Tuesday, or even worse, if a default occurs two or three weeks later: television news clips of phones going unanswered at Social Security offices, shuttered national parks, and veterans protesting reduced services. And a plunge in the market in event of a default. What was a political standoff would turn into a picture of dysfunction. Voters would get angry, and Republicans would inevitably (and accurately) get the blame.

The question now is whether a majority of House Republicans will feel the same way as their colleagues in the upper chamber. Answering only to rigidly gerrymandered districts, House members have shown themselves far less interested in the general welfare than senators, and may not react to the same pressures.

The bill now heads back to the House, and if Republicans attach another health care demand to it, that’s it, game over, the government shuts down on Tuesday. The Senate will have to strip it out again, and there won’t be enough time for reconciliation. Speaker John Boehner could agree to a one- or two-week extension, if he can get the votes for a kick-the-can bill, or he could punt, approve the Senate bill, and make his stand on the debt limit increase in the following few days.

But he’ll eventually have to punt on that, too, or risk triggering an economic catastrophe. The only realistic path is a sensible variant on what Mr. Cruz said this morning: Listen to the public and stop governing by crisis. Or as President Obama put it this afternoon: “Knock it off.”

By: David Firestone, The Opinion Pages, The New York Times, September 27, 2013

September 29, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Cowering To The Tea Party”: Where Oh Where Are The Sane House Republicans?

With the Senate, as expected, passing a (relatively) clean continuing resolution (CR) and sending it back to the House — but with House Speaker John Boehner’s plan to first pass a Christmas tree debt-limit bill and then retreat on the CR reportedly in ruins — there’s a lot of pessimism right now about keeping the government open when funding runs out on Tuesday.

But it’s still in the interests of mainstream House conservative Republicans to avoid a shutdown. And for the same reason: They’re the ones who are going to have to allow something to pass after a shutdown, so there’s no advantage in waiting until then. There might be if they had a demand they really cared about and thought they might get, but that’s not the case here, since exactly none of the sane House Republicans (which is well more than half of their conference) believes that the GOP has any chance of defunding, delaying or repealing Obamacare in this particular fight.

There are basically two ways they can avoid a shutdown. One is that they can pass a clean CR with mostly Democratic votes, and then those who don’t have to bite the bullet can pretend that they held firm with the tea partyers only to be betrayed by Boehner and a handful of moderates.

Or they could just admit what they think: that this particular battle has no chance for success, no matter what grandstanding demagogues might say. In the Senate, more than half of the Republicans were willing to vote against Ted Cruz in the key cloture vote. If more than half of the Republicans in the House would publicly say that they’ll vote for a clean CR — or even just ask for a clean CR to come to the House floor — they could move forward.

The first blame for a potential shutdown goes to Cruz and his allies. But they have no leverage at all if most House Republicans walk away from what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today called the “weird caucus.” Which means that those mainstream House Republicans deserve plenty of blame as well if the government shuts down on Tuesday.

Sane conservatives in the Senate were willing to speak up and to vote to keep the government open. Where are the sane House Republicans?

 

By: Jonathan Bernstein, The Washington Post, September 27, 2013

September 29, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hurting Real People Who Have Real Needs”: Republicans Are Suppressing Obamacare Enrollment

Republicans have done everything they could think of to repeal, defund, undermine and otherwise disrupt Obamacare. But they’ve failed, and that’s why they’ve turned to a last-ditch strategy to stop the law and take away the rights of millions of Americans to get the health care they need.

Governors and state legislators are adopting state laws and regulations to sabotage the work of “navigators,” the community organizations that will help consumers sign up for care. We are witnessing navigator suppression, and the Republicans’ objective is simple: the harder they make it for navigators to do their jobs, the harder it will be for people to benefit from Obamacare.

Republican governors in 21 states are already denying more than 5 million people health care by refusing to expand Medicaid. Navigator suppression is another way for the Obamacare haters to pile on and limit the reach of the law.

In a new report, Health Care for America Now conducted a detailed review of the most egregious laws and regulations found in 13 selected states: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. These states are home to 17 million people without health insurance who are eligible for coverage under the health care reform law–fully 41 percent of the nation’s uninsured.

The excessive requirements we found include such things as residency rules, extra fees, additional and unnecessary training requirements, superfluous certification exams, and prohibitions against navigators talking with consumers about the benefits offered by different plans. These measures constitute direct interference in the enrollment process.

For example, in Missouri, state and local officials are barred from providing any assistance to an exchange. In Florida, the Department of Health released a directive prohibiting navigators from conducting outreach at any of the county’s 67 health departments. Fortunately, two big counties, Broward and Pinellas, are ignoring the order.

And just this month, Texas Gov. Rick Perry ordered the Insurance Commissioner to write new navigator regulations that require, among other things, that navigators complete 40 hours of training in addition to the 20 hours required by the ACA and then pass a “rigorous” state exam. Perry is even trying to limit the hours of navigator operations to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. None of these rules is going to help get people covered in Texas, which has the nation’s highest percentage of uninsured residents.

These roadblocks and restrictions have caused groups to withdraw from the program and return their navigator grants. This is why President Obama in Maryland today criticized the Republicans for creating these sorts of “roadblocks” for the “churches and charities” working as navigators to educate the public about enrollment.

The Republicans claim these laws are about protecting consumers. But Georgia’s commissioner of insurance cleared that up when he boasted on video that he was doing everything he could to be “an obstructionist” to Obamacare.

Some of the Obamacare opponents may think they’re attacking the President or the law, but mostly they’re hurting real people with real health care needs. They’re making it harder for people to buy health care. This isn’t just an abstract political debate. For people without health insurance, this is about whether or not they can get medical care and get it without going bankrupt.

In a growing number of states, navigators are turning back their grants to help consumers because of navigator suppression policies.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, for example, which was planning to enroll people at three hospitals, turned back $124,000 in federal grant money because of state restrictions that went into effect this past July.

Cardon Outreach was going to educate people in Florida, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Utah. It returned its $833,000 grant.

In West Virginia, the Attorney General, Patrick Morrisey, a vocal opponent of the ACA, launched a harassment campaign against one of his state’s navigators, West Virginia Parent Training and Information. Morrisey posed dozens of questions to the group about its navigator program and gave them only 14 business days to respond. Instead, the organization decided to send back its $366,000 enrollment grant.

The Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council along the Texas border with Mexico just returned $288,000 in navigator grant funds this week in response to Perry’s attack, and four other Texas navigator groups reportedly may follow suit.

These state officials have taken their cues from members of Congress. Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters to 51 groups in 11 states, including food banks, legal aid societies, and United Way organizations. The committee demanded that these groups produce reams of paperwork about their operations and schedule a briefing of the committee by Sept. 13. The only purpose of the inquiry was to interfere with the ability of these groups to prepare for enrollment. That’s sabotage, and it’s a politically motivated abuse of power.

Many of the states now going after navigators are also passing laws to suppress voter registration and make it harder for minority, low-income and elderly residents to participate in elections. Just like voter suppression, enrollment suppression is an attack on people’s right to be healthy and free from financial hardship and bankruptcy.

That’s why navigator suppression shocks the conscience: it perpetuates the systematic denial of affordable health care to huge numbers of the most vulnerable individuals in our society, especially those in minority and lower-income populations.

Thanks to Obamacare, Americans no longer have to worry about getting the health care they need. They only have to worry about the Republicans taking it away.

 

By: Ethan Rome, Executive Director, Health Care for America Now; Health Care for America Now Blog, September 26, 2013

September 29, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Republicans, Rick Perry | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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